Microfinance Focus, 25 November 2012, Co-authored with Vikash Kumar
This article is part of a series aimed at understanding what’s happening in India’s affordable housing sector. It is based on interviews with residents of three low-cost housing projects: Vaishnavi Sai (outside Mumbai), Anandgram (outside Pune), and Janaadhar Shubha (outside Bangalore). The interviews were conducted during May-June 2012. Read Part 1 here.
After a long train ride – nearly two hours – the line ends. Passengers disembark at a small, but bustling community, easily covered on foot. The commerce around the station is busy, but within a few city blocks, one already spies farmland beyond the last rows of houses. Residents of all stripes live here, but the feel is decidedly working-class.
This could easily be late 19th century streetcar suburb outside Chicago or New York. Or a fin-de-siècle banlieue on the outskirts of Paris. But no, it’s Virar, one of the terminal stops on the Western Railways line heading north out of Mumbai. Read full article here.
Microfinance Focus, 16 October 2012, Co-authored with Vikash Kumar
This article is part of a series aimed at understanding what’s happening in India’s affordable housing sector. It is based on interviews with residents of three low-cost housing projects: Vaishnavi Sai (outside Mumbai), Anandgram (outside Pune), and Janaadhar Shubha (outside Bangalore). The interviews were conducted during May-June 2012. Read Part 2 here.
Something is afoot in the low cost housing market in India. Over the last two years, dozens of commercially-built projects targeted at the lower middle class have been going up in cities across the country, with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of units being built. In the past six months, many of these projects have begun opening their doors to the new residents. We decided to pay some of them a visit. more →
MicrofinanceFocus, 28 March 2012
Last month, the headlines of the world’s papers read déjà vu. “Suicides in India linked to microfinance debt.” “SKS Microfinance implicated in farmer suicides.” The headlines may have differed, but the article was one and the same, penned by Erika Kinetz of the Associated Press. SKS was appalled, calling the report “libelous” and “scurrilous.”
For what it’s worth, the damage has been minimal. SKS stock slid 4.25% on the day of the article, but recovered within a few days of trading. The slide shows little distinction from its already volatile trading pattern (Figure 1). Of course bad news can also cause lenders and investors to take a second look, or simply slow things down. One MFI manager told me of exactly this very reaction on the part of an Indian bank in the immediate days after the AP article. But the story got relatively little press in India, and no follow-up of significance. By now it’s reasonable to say that the microfinance sector in India can breathe a sigh of relief. Seeing bad news get swept back under the carpet can be quite satisfying, even if the stink remains. more →
MicrofinanceFocus, 27 December 2011
On October 14, 2010, the Andhra Pradesh government issued an Ordinance that effectively shut down the microfinance market in the state. That shutdown continues to this day, with collections at negligible levels. It’s clear that the AP microfinance market is dead and will not recover for years.
Important as AP has been to India microfinance, it is not everything. Despite the year-long crisis, repayment rates in other states remain strong. And though AP-oriented MFIs have been seriously or even terminally wounded, others have remained unscathed.
Despite this, in the intervening period funding for MFIs – largely dependent on a handful of Indian state and commercial banks – has persisted in a state of severe liquidity deficit. more →
MicrofinanceFocus, 7 July 2011
It seems wherever you turn these days, politics is getting into microfinance. In Andhra Pradesh, the state government exercised its prerogative to kill off an entire industry. Next door in Bangladesh, Prime Minister Hasina decided to hound Yunus out of Grameen Bank, no matter the cost. The No Pago (No Pay) movement in Nicaragua counted on the support of the country’s president. What’s the industry to do in the face of such onslaught?
Weathering the Storm identified state intervention as one of the core risks faced by MFIs. It drew its lessons from the case of PADME in Benin, which was effectively nationalized by the government in 2008. At the time, PADME was in the process of transforming from an NGO to a for-profit entity, and the Benin government had made clear from the start that it was not in favor of such a plan. Despite this, PADME’s management and prospective investors had decided to push ahead, thinking that they would be able to parry the government’s attempts to block the process.
They were wrong. more →
Co-authored with Karuna Krishnaswamy; MicrofinanceFocus, 25 January 2011
Hyderabad has gone missing. And it seems nobody has noticed the absence. While academics and the press were scouring the villages of Andhra Pradesh in search of over-indebted borrowers and debt-induced suicides, and while politicians in the villages and government halls were busy protecting their beloved SHGs (and the vote banks they provide), Hyderabad up and vanished, leaving apparently no trace of its prior existence.
Naturally, we are referring not to the physical city, but to its microfinance market, as well as those of other cities in Andhra Pradesh. Make no mistake – microfinance lending in urban AP has been widespread, outpacing even that of the countryside. And yet, there seems to be little recognition of its existence and how it has been affected by the current crisis. more →
MicrofinanceFocus, 8 November 2010
The crisis in Andhra Pradesh has highlighted how exposed MFIs are to mass non-payments. Industry insiders have suggested that even some of the largest MFIs simply might not survive if the crisis is not resolved soon. And if that were to happen, is the industry prepared to deal with the process of unwinding one of these giants?
The top MFIs in India are large by any standard, with assets in the multiple $100s of millions, most of which are held in the form of outstanding microcredits. Once an MFI is hobbled to the point that it cannot survive as a going concern, what happens to these assets? Experience from other MFIs suggests that prospects for recouping them are not good. more →
Co-authored with Vinod Kothari; MicrofinanceFocus, 19 August 2010
Our earlier article on the Hidden Risks behind Microfinance Securitization raised serious concerns about the inherent and largely unrecognized risks embedded in securitizations of microcredit assets. While we believe that this article provided a useful contribution to microfinance sector, we recognize that it is sometimes easier to be a critic than an actor. As the issues we raised were serious enough to inspire action, in this follow-up we explore in greater detail some of the potential solutions that we believe could mitigate these risks. more →
Co-authored with Vinod Kothari; MicrofinanceFocus, 6 July 2010
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) recently promulgated proposed guidelines for securitization by non-banking finance companies that if implemented, would essentially gut the widespread Indian MFI practice of selling (assigning) and securitizing portions of their portfolios. One of us has already described these consequences in detail. Not surprisingly, this proposal caused alarm in the microfinance community and has generated intensive lobbying efforts with the RBI to modify the ruling. As the RBI considers their case, it should bear in mind another distinguishing characteristic that sets microfinance securitizations apart. more →
MicrofinanceFocus, 7 June 2010
Savings is a hot topic in the microfinance policy circles these days. The CGAP blog regularly features one or another posting on savings programs. The influential blogger David Roodman recently recommended deemphasizing cross-border MFI debt funding in favor of support for savings services. Meanwhile, the Gates Foundation has been channeling its millions towards expanding savings, in many cases bypassing the traditional microfinance sector altogether. more →